Six different winners in the last six major events (Flavia Pennetta: US Open’15, Agnieszka Radwanska: WTA Finals’15, Angelique Kerber: Australian Open’16, Garbine Muguruza: French Open’16, Serena Williams: Wimbledon’16, Monica Puig: Olympics’16). This has truly been the year of Women Tennis. It has become uber-competitive and has witnessed the rise of a lot of players. Unlike tennis in men, where the game is still dominated by a few and the transition to the next generation seems quite slow, women tennis is on a roller coster ride.
Karolina Pliskova has beaten just-former World No.1 Serena Williams in the semi-finals of the US Open. Pliskova has become just the fourth player to have beaten both the Williams sisters in a Grand Slam. She will be facing Angelique Kerber in the finals (Both the players playing their first US Open final) but Kerber is no stranger to Grand Slam finals, having reached three this year. The pressure will be on Pliskova but then playing in a Grand Slam final is an altogether a different kind of motivation in itself.
Serena’s defeat in the semi-finals and Kerber’s run to the finals, makes Kerber the new World No. 1. She becomes only the second German, after Steffi Graf, to be ranked No. 1 in singles. This ends Serena’s 186 consecutive weeks at the top, tied with Steffi Graf. The US Open semi-final hasn’t exactly aided Serena in chasing records in the past two years. Last year, Serena was bidding to become the first player since Steffi Graf (1988) to win all four Grand Slams in a year when she lost her US Open semi-final match while this year she was chasing her 23rd Grand Slam title and her 7th US Open, which would have been an open-era record.
What a year it has been for Kerber! Winning her maiden Grand Slam at the Australian Open, reaching the Wimbledon finals, Silver medal at the Olympics, accession to World No. 1 and probably a second Grand Slam this weekend. Kerber had become No. 1 before her semi-final match against Wozniacki (a former World No. 1), but she did not let her emotions get the better of her. She held her nerve and focused on the task at hand winning the match in straight sets.
Kerber has a very positive vibe and embodies dignity and class, features befitting a World No. 1. Kerber has been an inspiration to the budding players and instrumental in bringing down the Serena-dominance spill over from last season. The difference in points between Serena and herself is very narrow as Serena did not drop any points at the US Open (having lost to Roberta Vinci last year at the semi-final stage) and Serena did not play the remainder of last season post the US Open. So, Serena would be gaining points from here on till the end of the season but if Kerber is able to outperform her performance 52 weeks ago, then maybe she could end the year as World No. 1.
Becoming World No. 1 is no easy task but what’s more difficult is staying there. If you are the top player, that signifies that you have won enough that season to be there, but in order to maintain your position you need to defend your titles and keep winning. Ana Ivanovic was No. 1 for just three weeks in 2008 and Dinara Safina for two weeks in 2009. Hopefully, Kerber will be able to fend off Serena for longer.
With reference to the title of my piece and to the person who had made a similar remark on women, nobody should be thanking nobody for anything. And the least of all, women tennis thanking God for Federer and Nadal. Women tennis has a great history of its own and does not need men to look up to. The two are incomparable. On the contrary, the next generation in men can look up to their female counterparts to defy their orthodox methodization to the top.